ISRO in partnership mode for Gaganyaan’s Dec launch

A woman helps her child wear spacesuit at a gallery at Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. Isro is bracing for India's first manned spaceflight. The Rs 10k-crore mission will see three-member crew blast off aboard Gaganyaan in Dec 2021. (DH File Photo)

A successful soft-landing of Chandrayaan-2 on the lunar surface on September 7 will let the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) focus on its next big project with all guns blazing: Gaganyaan, India’s first manned spaceflight scheduled for December 2021 launch.

Three Indians, selected by the Indian Air Force (IAF), will eventually be part of the mission. Ending speculations, Russian agency Roscosmos had announced recently that four candidates for the mission will be trained at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Centre.

ISRO had inked a deal with the Russian space agency, Glavkosmos, to activate the training programme. Moving ahead, talks are now on to supply space suits, crew seats and windows for the selected astronauts.

Prime minister had set a 2022 deadline for ISRO to put the Indian manned mission in space. Indo-Russian partnership talks are also on for Gaganyaan’s crew rescue system, satellite navigation and engine technology for the GSLV Mk III launcher that will take the mission aboard.

Before ISRO undertakes the actual manned mission, two unmanned trial missions will be launched. The first of this is scheduled for December 2020 and the second one in June 2021. The Rs 10,000-crore mission will see a three-member crew blast off aboard Gaganyaan, to be positioned at a low earth orbit of 300 to 400 km. Staying there for about a week, the astronauts will be tasked with conducting a series of microgravity experiments.

Besides Russia, ISRO is also expected to work with the French space agency, CNES. On the agenda is training of Indian space medicine personnel attached to the manned mission at the Centre for the Development of Microgravity Applications and Space operation in France.

Life support systems, protection from space debris and radiation protection are among the critical elements lined up for the training. Beyond their stay in space, the astronauts will face tough challenges on their return to Earth via the crew module.

At an altitude of 120 km above Earth, the module will detach from the service module and splash down into the Arabian Sea or the Bay of Bengal.

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